Mary Corbet

writer and founder


I learned to embroider when I was a kid, when everyone was really into cross stitch (remember the '80s?). Eventually, I migrated to surface embroidery, teaching myself with whatever I could get my hands on...read more

Contact Mary

Connect with Mary



2020 (108) 2019 (147) 2018 (146) 2017 (169) 2016 (147) 2015 (246) 2014 (294) 2013 (294) 2012 (305) 2011 (306) 2010 (316) 2009 (367) 2008 (353) 2007 (225) 2006 (139)

Embroidery Kits vs Sourcing Supplies: Value, Time, Quality & Money


Amazon Books

Lately, I’ve received some interesting emails from readers, asking questions or relating experiences that have to do with embroidery kits.

And heck, who doesn’t like to talk about embroidery kits? It’s a topic I love, so I’m always game for a discussion!

One interesting conversational thread that has surfaced is the topic of purchasing embroidery kits as opposed to sourcing your own supplies for a project.

The topic is multi-faceted. I could never cover every detail or share every thought I have on the subject in one article. You’d be asleep by the end!

So, instead, I’m introducing the subject here, sharing a few of my thoughts and some basic principles behind them, and asking for your input and feedback.

Embroidery Kits vs. Sourcing Materials

Two emails in particular prompted me to write about the notion of embroidery kits and sourcing supplies for embroidery projects.

This is email #1:

I want to work Hazel’s Late Harvest along with you, but I think the kit is way overpriced. I’ve never paid that much for an embroidery kit, and I’ve worked lots of kits! I’ve been looking for the supplies and found some of them but not all. Can you help me find [the supplies I’m missing] online so I can order them?

This is email #2:

I thought I could save money sourcing my own supplies for Late Harvest. The only thing I could source locally was the DMC thread, which I purchased at Michael’s. I don’t have a local needlework shop nearby, so I had to order fabric, beads, needles and the wire for the stumpwork elements online. By the time I tracked down all the beads, they were coming from four different online suppliers. I made a mistakes with some of them because I couldn’t see them in person and I had to re-order some. The fabric I ordered, a Zweigart linen, wasn’t going to work for surface embroidery like this, so I ordered a different linen online and bought some muslin locally to back it. Then, to make matters worse, I made a mess with the design transfer and had to start over. Good thing I had ordered extra fabric! By the time I was ready to begin stitching, I was working on getting everything together for over six weeks and by the time I paid for everything, corrected my mistakes and paid for shipping, I ran up quite a tab of just over $70. I wish I had bought the kit in the first place.

Commercial Embroidery Kits

While there are many embroidery kits available to the stitching public these days – thanks mainly to the internet, since most people don’t have local needlework shops, and if they do, the shops don’t have a high concentration of surface embroidery offerings – there’s an obvious distinction between the types of embroidery kits available today and how (and who) produces them.

Let’s talk about commercial kits first, which are produced in bulk by a company, often one with a hand in the manufacturing or distribution of at least some of the supplies involved.

Take, for example, these tiny Mill Hill bead kits that I wrote about not too long ago. They’re produced in bulk, and they contain products belonging to the producers (i.e. the Mill Hill beads and the perforated paper).

When a company like Mill Hill produces these kits, they aren’t having to pay for the same levels of distribution that we (the retail shopper) would have to pay for, when it comes to the supplies involved.

They’re also supplying partial amounts within the kits – enough to work the kit. So, instead of full skeins of DMC thread, you’ll find a few strands of each color. Instead of the full retail container of beads, you’ll find enough to complete the kit. Instead of a full sheet of perforated paper, you’ll find a small piece large enough to work the design.

And so, for about $8, you can buy a little kit and complete the whole design with the supplies required. If you had to buy, retail, all the individual supplies to create the tiny object, the cost would be significantly more. Sure, you’d have left-overs (we all love stash!), but would the value of what you embroidered be comparable to the price you paid for the supplies? If you had to spend $20 or more to assemble all the supplies, would it be worth that tiny embroidery on perforated paper?

Similar principles apply to kits produced by Bucilla, Dimensions, and other commercial producers whose kits can be found in big box stores, discount craft shops, and the like. With these latter kits, you can also add other dimensions to the principle: when it comes to commercial kits like these, are you getting quality supplies that are deserving of the time you’ll be putting into them? Often, no. Where are the kits produced, and what is the cost of labor in those places where the kits are produced?

So, the upshot: commercial kits are often much less expensive than if you sourced the materials yourself for the same project.

Designer Embroidery Kits

For lack of a better name for them, designer embroidery kits are kits that come straight from the designer. In most cases, the designer either works alone, or she (or he) might have one or two assistants that help with packaging and assembly.

The designer, who has already stitched the project and knows it inside and out, has sourced all the supplies and ordered them (normally wholesale, or at least with some discount from the retail price), paid shipping on them, and divided them up according to the requirements of the kit.

Designer kits often include full skeins of thread, as opposed to small quantities estimated as enough to finish the design, because a designer knows that every stitcher is different. While the designer may have only used half a skein to complete her original design, that doesn’t mean every stitcher will only use exactly half a skein.

Also, when it comes down to it – and especially when it comes to most cotton threads – it’s often less expensive to include the whole skein than to pay yourself or someone else an hourly wage to cut it up into small pieces.

The designer has sourced beads and needles and other similar requirements in bulk – exactly the ones needed to produce the finished design.

The designer has also sourced the ground fabric, usually bought wholesale in quite a large quantity, and has cut it down to the sizes required for each project.

Further, with many designer kits, the designer pays a screen printing service to print an accurate design on each piece of fabric or has hand-transferred the design on each piece of fabric herself.

Then there’s the packaging! Packaging and printed materials must be designed and paid for. Packaging and printed materials are expensive, especially for small businesses. The smaller your business, the more expensive they are, so small businesses have to invest in advance in bulk to get reasonable and affordable prices.

Finally, the designer may have to pay an employee to help with assembly, or, in cases where she doesn’t have an employee, she has to pay herself for the time she spends on all of this – from designing, to stitching, to sourcing, to packaging and mailing.

In the end, she has to make a reasonable profit, or she can’t continue doing what she does. And if she can’t continue doing it, designer kits will no longer be available for us.

Quality, Success, Passion, and the Art

The designer has carefully selected the best materials for you to use, to produce her design in her kit. She (or he) knows that your time deserves the best quality materials for your embroidery. And she knows what materials will work best to produce a beautiful result with her design.

The designer has a vested interest in your success. She wants you to successfully complete her kit, and to complete it well. She doesn’t want you to be frustrated by lesser-quality threads or fabrics. She doesn’t want your finished product to look “not quite as good” as it could, because of poor quality materials. She wants you to be thrilled and happy with the end results.

Why? She wants you to come back for more, yes, but she also has that desire to further the whole notion of the art of embroidery. She is passionate about embroidery, and she wants you to be, too. So she’s going to give you the stuff that she is passionate about. She’s not going to settle for less than what she would use in her own stitching.

So, the upshot: designer’s kits are more expensive than commercial kits. But there’s a whole lot more to them, too!

Sourcing Your Own Supplies

I think the two emails above speak pretty clearly about the difficulties of sourcing your own supplies for embroidery projects.

In the first case, the writer needs help sourcing supplies – she doesn’t know where to find them, and she is already frustrated by having to spend time looking for them. And so she wants someone else to do the searching for her. It’s not really a service I can afford to provide. Sure, if I know where to find something off the top of my head, I don’t mind sharing that knowledge. But I can’t afford to spend my time sourcing supplies for another designer’s kit, so that the stitcher can save money at my expense. I know it sounds harsh and ungenerous, but that is just reality. The designer has already sourced the supplies and produced a kit.

The second email demonstrates everything that can go wrong when you do source your own supplies for a complicated project. In the end, financially, the stitcher saved herself about $20, if you consider postage on that particular kit. Was it worth it? She didn’t think so.

When it Makes Financial Sense

For simple projects worked on a readily available fabric with widely available threads, it’s easy enough to source your own supplies. And it makes financial sense to do it.

But with complex projects that involve harder-to-find fabrics and threads, lots of specific embellishments, special tools or the like, it is usually makes more sense – financially and emotionally! – to purchase the kit. You’ll save time; you’ll avoid frustration; you’ll avoid individual shipping costs on retail supplies ordered from different places; and you’ll avoid any mistakes you might make in ordering things online that you aren’t sure about.

Supporting the Art

But there’s more to it than just financial sense.

When you purchase a designer’s kit, you are supporting the small business of the designer – which goes a long way to keeping the art of embroidery alive!

And What About Your Time?

Time is the one element that many stitchers don’t take into consideration.

As yourself:

What is your time worth? And what is worth your time?

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the Most Valuable Element of any of your embroidery projects is your Time.

Is it worth the hours of time it would take you to source materials for a complex embroidery project, to save the money you’d save if you don’t buy the designer’s kit?

Maybe, in some cases – if the supplies are simple enough to find and you can get some or all of them locally.

But in many cases, is the $25 or $30 you might save, after spending ten hours looking for supplies, a reasonable return for your time?

Your Thoughts?

Like I mentioned at the beginning (and that was a long time ago!), these are just some basic thoughts about embroidery kits, sourcing supplies, the value of time, money, and quality supplies.

I’d like to know your thoughts! Do you have any points to add? Pros, cons, otherwise? Do you agree or disagree with any points I’ve made? Do you have any questions about the topic, or additional insights?

This is a topic I’d love to see discussed and fleshed out a bit, and especially to hear your take on!

If you’d like to join in the discussion, feel free to leave your comments below!


Leave a Reply to Cynthia Green Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


(232) Comments

  1. I rarely buy kits and not simply because of the cost. I like to be able to make my own choices about fabrics and threads and so on. And also, having been stitching on and off for 30 years, I do have a considerable stash – including a lot of leftovers from other kits! So in general, I prefer to buy designs and instructions, or sometimes pre-printed fabric, and then make up my own ‘kit’ of threads and other materials. That means that my work doesn’t usually look exactly like the designer’s piece, and I’m happy about that, because it means mine is unique.

    I’d love, for example, the Crewel Work Company to start selling their printed designs with instructions but not including all the wool, needles etc. I have plenty of crewel wool in stash to use up!

    1. I agree! I got tons of Crewel wool – the same wool the company uses. It would be madness to order more.

      Some designers indeed sell different kits. For example, a full kit including everything, a medium kit with speacialty threads and such (but not common ones like DMC) and a small kit with (pre-printed) fabrics only. I think that is a good policy as customers can choose the most fitting option and the company gets sales it otherwise probably wouldn’t.

    2. i agree too!!! i would buy all the designs from the crewel work company if i could just buy the preprinted fabric and instructions. this would also help with costs as being in the u.s. the dollar exchange rate makes they kits very expensive i paid $250 for the marriage pillow and can only do this about once a year for budget reasons. but i love their designs so much i will keep going back. I also purchased hazel blomkamp’s preprinted linen from austrian needlearts and had excellent service with time and cost. i used threads that i already had at home.

    3. I hope this reply gets posted close to Ros’s post–but I just wanted to mention that I recently emailed the Crewel Work Company about that very matter: I needed the instructions but not the materials for one of their project (incidentally, the Mellerstain firescren that was just featured here as a giveaway), and they got right back to me saying they could sell me just that! So, especially with these small independent designers, it’s worth it to reach out, because they might be able to accommodate small special orders like that. 🙂

    4. I feel similarly. I usually buy just the pattern because I almost inevitably make changes to the design. However, I splurged and bought one kit recently and I had to go out and buy additional materials because the designer picked such gross colors! Sure, it looked ok on the picture on the website but when I actually got the package…. I didn’t know thread could come in neon 80’s slime green!
      Good thing there’s a local children’s museum that is always looking for art supplies for their “messy room”. Kids like slime green, right?

    5. In relation to printed twill and instructions packs only. Keep an eye on The Crewel Work Company website. I believe that they have plans to do just that in the future.

    6. Ros, reading your email I think you make a statement that really attests to why it is, in the long run better to buy a kit. And/or buy the book.(I do like the books sometimes as it tells you what stitch and shows you how and plenty of other good stuff).
      You say – “including a lot of leftovers from other kits!” This interests me.
      This says to me it is to be preferred to buy a kit as most designers allow a few extras in the materials if you lose a few beads or have pull outs of thread.
      I can also speak about that matter ‘what to do with left overs’. All types of kits. I put left overs with the finished article to be used in future if the item needs repairs could be next week, or 50 years on. Those items that were not possible to use, I made a sampler that has all the left over bits sewn onto it. Nothing grand, but it has name of Kit or item name & date completed. Thread name, DMC, Anchor 612, Blue. I make a small skein and lash it to sampler. If beads I just thread them and in a line I sew it to fabric lashing stitch between each bead to hold it down. I think you get the drift. Then I roll my sampler up and put it in a tube. The tube is dated from beginning. When the sampler gets too big for the tube I cut off the end. Seal up the tube and date accordingly. Put a bit of dried lavender and or cloves (in a little bag – very easy to make, make like square ravioli.) I don’t let any of it loose as it could stain the sampler. Finally put a little silica gel pad (I have kept from food packs). NOT MEAT ones. The rolls will stack nicely and you have a repair kit for the item.
      If you want to change your kit, the sampler is still good as you can see what was suggested by the designer but add your own choice to it.
      I have on occasions wanted the design in a different colour. I contacted the dealer and ask if that is possible,(I don’t particularly like blue)so if not could I have just the design? Sometimes, yes sometimes, no. It is their prerogative. It is not their responsibility to suit everyone. You buy it or you don’t,so be it. BUT if you don’t ask you never know! There are many Dealers who just sell the design. I have been stitching for over 60 years and you want to see my stash! To make matters worse no daughters to pass onto. My best friends x 4 are to when I die, get a trailer and clear out all my “stuff”. My husband and son know this and it is written in concrete in my will. Also if my friends die before me it all goes to auction and the proceeds go to my favourite charity.
      So Ros it is all up to you. But no need to waste a thing just re use or distribute and ask nicely, you could be pleasantly surprised.

      Happy stitching all.

  2. As you point out – kits can be a great time-saver, and can provide the stitcher with both a design and everything needed to produce that design.

    I would add “… as the designer intended.”

    The execution of kitted designs according to the original designer’s specifications and vision is indeed a skill of high order. Exquisite works can be made. Having the guidance of the designer’s expertise is very comforting – especially for those learning new skills or venturing into new styles.

    That being said, I personally find fully-furnished kit execution to be unfulfilling. Again – kits can be exquisite, but for me stitching is a journey. If I am wandering along in my work, and have an itch to modify the design, try a different stitch, learn something new in context, or make other departures, kitted materials do not always have the “comfort-margin” needed to accommodate my change.

    That’s why I greatly prefer self-designed or adapted projects, which I source independently. Red beads instead of green? No problem. A thicker stem line requiring more (or a different type) silk? Again, no problem. You know, a little bit more of that gold would make the design pop… And once more, no problem.

    You can argue that my weird need to tinker can be accommodated by buying a kit, then adding materials to it. But I find that dye lots and quality are hard to match. It’s easier to buy materials all at once than to try to find the right shade of blue intermediate to the two that were kitted, of equal finish and thread quality – especially when the kit is provided with reeled components divorced from point of origin and color number labeling.

    Again – there’s nothing that makes buying and working kits any less impressive an activity than independent design and sourcing. But for some of us, the unruly ones who can’t leave well enough alone, kits, with the rigid restrictions on materials and follow-me one way didactic approach – are too constricting to be a source of ultimate fun.

    So to finally answer the question – it is not worth it to me to purchase fully sourced, kitted projects. I vastly prefer design-only, or (even better) design as example, and to draft my own.

    YMMV of course.

  3. I rely heavily on kits. I think that if you are stitching someone else’s design, and they have produced it in kit form, there are big advantages in doing so – as you have outlined in your piece. But what I really want to do is to design my own pieces – if only I had the confidence/skills/time to do it. So that is my aspiration. In the meantime, I am contenting myself with going “off piste” a bit with kits – using different stitches or colours from those recommended, and using my accumulated stash of wools to do so.

  4. I started embroidering in High School, over 35 years ago. At that time embroidery kits were very easy to find. Now-a-days they are very hard. Cross stitch and crewel kits you can find easily, but embroidery kits? No, not so much.
    Now that I’m older and have gotten a bit better at embroidery, I do much more my own designs. I decide on the design, fabric, thread, extras, etc. and source them myself (or use my stash). I have found in just the past couple of years that, as Mary puts it, there are lot more “designer” kits. I have gotten kits from Mary and Trish Burr among others and have always been happy with them. To me, these kits are better than commercial kits, for all the reasons Mary lists. Yes, they do cost a bit more, but I can be confident of the quality and directions and that my finished product will look like theirs.

  5. For me time is worth a lot, so buying kits that have already been put together is well worth it for me. It just takes hours of time to find the right materials, so I figure in ‘time spent’ to justify the sometimes higher cost.

  6. I think Late Harvest is really overpriced. I really enjoy getting all my needs for a new project. It was much easier when my friends lived closer as we would share the threads, beads etc. Also I feel I can change colours that I might prefer for my individual project.

    1. I believe it is very important to differentiate between over-priced and expensive. Over-priced implies gouging, whereas expensive talks more to quality and is likely a more accurate description of Hazel’s Late Harvest, with its many high quality bits and pieces sourced from far and wide. Furthermore, I have a friend who was once berated by her husband for buying yet anther expensive needlework kit. She asked him if he had just finished playing another expensive round of golf. His answer was yes. And what do you have to show for it?, she asked You spend x amount of money, played for 5 hours and you have nothing to show for it. As far as Late Harvst goes, it is less expensive than a round of golf at a fine club, it gives the stitcher hundreds, possibly thousands of hours of pleasure working on it, and is a masterpiece to be admired and enjoyed for years and possibly generations….when you amortize it out like that, it’s not so expensive after all, and it most certainly is not over-priced.

  7. Buy the kits! I’m all in favor of buying kits. I know I’ll get exactly what I need. I don’t have to stress about finding all the stuff from different vendors. Even if I decide to use some different colors of threads or whatever, one or two changes are easy compared to searching for an entire suite of products. I am supporting a wonderful group of artists. And I can cut to the chase and get straight into the project. I understand having stash, and perhaps if I were younger or making embroidery a career or major hobby, I’d do things differently. But right now, I’ll let the artists do the heavy lifting, and I’ll color inside their lines. Thanks, Mary, for a wonderful blog and always interesting discussions.

  8. Kits work best for me as it is really difficult to get supplies I need on Maui. I end up ordering and paying shipping. Then waiting for the supplies ordered. Shipping can take 4 days to a month.
    I’d like some simple floral kits. Any suggestions company would have that?
    Hopefully you are feeling better and enjoying Spring!!

    1. Try Tanya Berlin’s website – lots of kits graded from beginner to advanced. Flowers, Animals, gold work. and other types. Great kits and her instructions are stellar.

      Trish Burr, royal school, – many worldwide sites.

    2. Celia ,
      I live in Hilo. Before that in Illinois. I have always ordered by mail. Originally ,
      50 years ago because I was used to designs and fabrics from Sweden and Denmark. Try NordicNeedle.com . They are in S.D but manage to get my in stock orders here usually in 2 days sometimes three. I have no idea how. BIG catalogue which covers ALL kinds of needlework. Small kits to
      Heirloom quality. Supplies, fabric, books, and accessories. Hope this might help.

  9. As an intermediate fabric/sew-a-holic of many years, I wish that I would have mainly purchased kits because creating a stash is also expensive (altho’ fun to do). One never uses it all up and must find/fund a way to store it.
    The designer prices are somewhat of a deterrent to purchasing, but whenever possible I support their business. I love the stitching process, but perhaps am not as originally creative as the previous posters.

  10. I am not a total beginner but have been away for years. Got back via Crazy Quilting. For me, a kit is a godsend – I don’t have a stash and do not have a comprehensive list of good suppliers. I can’t seem to make a quilt kit by following directions but not so eager to mess with directions on an embroidery kit – maybe that will come with time and experience. Right now, kits are my answer!

  11. I am in the process of starting my 2nd kit of Hazel Blomkamp’s. I finished one and decided to go ahead and purchase materials for 2 projects because I can’t decide which one to do. I may do both. It has been tough attempting to get all those specialty threads and beads. I should have just bought the kits or even the partial kits. I have spent alot of time searching, some things I had to buy internationally and that was the reason I didn’t want to purchase the designer’s kits. Lesson learned. Never again.

  12. Your article on kits was informative and helpful to me as a beginning embroiderer. However, my need follows a different path. My goal is to learn basic stitches and eventually grow into more challenging stitches. Repetition is a part of my learning process and I would prefer to practice these stitches individually rather than jumping into a “project”. Is there an educational kit where I could follow instructions and then practice the skill or skills to perfection? I am not looking to hang something on the wall but to learn and polish a skill before I try something grand.

    Sheila Shaffer

    1. Sheila
      I recommend buying books and creating samplers for practice. You can also purchase patterns alone to transfer and use whatever stitches you want. I like urban threads and sublime stitching. Sublime stitching also had basic affordable kits. Iron on transfers that are really fun, etc. A great book for stitches is Stitch Sampler by Lucinda Ganderton and Doodle-stitching by Aimee Ray

  13. I ordered a kit from the French Needle. Well, to my surprise (but shouldn’t be) the insructions are in French. This happened once before with another kit. It was a Scandinavian company. You guessed right again. Only this time Swedish I worked my way through it in more ways than one.In the end, the piece turned out beautifly. Now, on to the French kit.

    1. Pat, you could try to put the instructions into Google Translate. It might involve some typing but you could do it little by little, just the section you are working on!

    2. Thank you Beth.
      Instructions should be in multiple languages. Especially when they are being sold world wide.

    3. I’ve seen online translations of needlework terms in several languages. I’ve used them in the past when confronted with instructions in French or Italian.

    4. Hmm, this is an interresting one. I am Dutch, but live in Germany. I sell my kits internationally. What language should I use? I have found that the Dutch market is very, very small. Not worth it to translate instructions into Dutch. Most Dutch people can read English or German, however, some costumers are not too happy that I don’t provide instructions in Dutch. Especially as it is my native language. They forget that it takes me about half a day to a day to just produce a Dutch version. That’s a lot of time. It is similar with the German texts. Not many sales, but Germans are far less likely to buy a kit that does not have German instructions. In the English speaking world, it is rare to find people who are fluent enough in German, let allone Dutch, to be willing to buy a kit in either language. So what do I do? Be as stubborn as the French and just use my native language and let you figure it out with Google translate and a dictionary? Would love to hear people’s thoughts on this!

    5. Jessica Grimm, in response to your query, how about investing once in a translation of each kit in English, French, Dutch and German, making a bunch of photocopies, and then just picking the relevant one depending on the language preference of your client. If you didn’t know, or they didn’t specify, you could default to English or German since you say that most of your customers in the Netherlands and Germany read English well enough. This would mean you could then also market to the UK, the US, Canada, and other countries where English is widespread (if you have French instructions, you could doubly market to Canada). It might be an expensive initial outlay to get the instructions professionally translated but after that, you’d probably make up the difference in sales.

      Just a thought.

    6. Hi Sarah,
      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on the language issue. Unfortunately, paying for professional translations is out of the question. My ‘best-ever-selling’ kits sell about 10-15 times. And that is when they have instructions in DE, EN and NL available. Luckily, me and my husband both have worked as translators during our university years; so we are pretty good and quick. As embroidery language has quite a special idiom, a professional translator wouldn’t be automatically better, let alone faster.

    7. Pat, I’d check with them to make sure a mistake wasn’t made. I’ve ordered several embroidery kits from them and they’ve always been in English.

  14. So many people I know tell me that they are not prepared to buy expensive kits, but find if you want the knowledge and expertise that goes with them then IF you can afford them do so. If you get a fabulous Crewel Work Company kit you get the best instructions, best materials and plenty of them. I hate kits that give you strands and My hobby is important to me and I when I embroidery I want the embroidery to last. Buy tat and you will work with and produce tat. A kit may cost be £100 but over the 12 months it takes me to stitch it is worth it. I agree the time for me is precious and should be spent stitching. This subject ruffles my feathers and often those producing the kits will sell you fabric as well. What a subject.

    1. I do buy kits on occasion. I want the expertise of the designer but I have in the past just bought the patterns and have spent way too much time and money to get supplies. I have a large surplus of supplies…but never the “right” fiber/fabric! Buy the kit!

  15. I really use kits to learn something new. But if I already know the technique, I’ll still buy the kit if I want that exact result. Otherwise I tend to improvise with supplies I already have, or go questing, because I do enjoy a good quest. I also look at finished products and say, oh, I like that, but maybe in a different color, or size, or whatever. Then I’ll buy whatever I don’t already have and use the original as a launch point.

    I hope that makes sense.

  16. Mary, this is a frequent discussion at my stitching groups. Researching and collecting supplies for a design can be a real chore. Here in Phoenix we have several needlework shops that specialize in counted thread — cross stitch or needlepoint. So my personal challenge is finding quality ground fabrics. I visit Needle in a Haystack a couple of times a year which helps but it’s a challenge.

    I love designer kits because they are generous with the supplies provided even for me with my froggy problem; rip it, rip it. There’s always a new mistake to make – life is so exciting.

    Thanks for the topic. I am really enjoying the comments from my fellow stitchers. All the best, and thank you for all your work.

  17. For cross stitching, I learned that sourcing my own materials is less expensive. But when it comes to designer kits I prefer to get them from the source. Like you said it’s much less expensive in terms of time and shipping and it encourages the designer to continue creating new work. Also, sometimes materials are discontinued and get even harder to find. Buying a designer kit might make that easier as the designer would have found a substitute to create their kits.

  18. Mary, Good topic! Sometimes I source my own, and sometimes I buy a kit. Depends on what items are needed. Some classes have only been offered with the kit priced into it. If I don’t like the colorway(s) offered, I won’t sign up.

    If the supplies are at all out of the ordinary, I don’t have any local sources. “Buying blind” works some of the time, and sometimes – oh, well, I’ve just added to my stash.

    You say it well — it can take a lot of time and effort to source things. I’m fortunate to belong to some online groups that have been able to help each other locate unusual items.

    And then there’s the “backordered” problem, with both local and online sources. It can take me months to get everything.

    I definitely appreciate designers who identify their suppliers, and who list reasonable alternatives (for example – Anchor/DMC substitutions, or overdyed/solid alternatives).

    A long-winded way of saying it’s not “one size fits all” for me, and not always easy.

  19. Excellent points all around, Mary.

    I’ve found that most designers are happy to provide you with manufacturer information if you want to source your own materials for a kit. This is especially helpful if you’re looking for hard-to-find materials.

    I don’t often buy kits, but it’s mostly because I’m that person who thinks, “Oh, that’s gorgeous, but I’d rather stitch it in (insert color preference here).” Of the kits I have purchased, 99% of them have been smaller kits so that I could learn a new technique or learn how to work with a new material.

    Sourcing your own materials for a kit can work if you know exactly what you need and where to find it, but for bits and bobs that are harder to track down, most people would probably be better off purchasing the kit.

    As to value for dollars spent, I think turning around the question you asked is important: How much is the designer’s time worth? Designers like Hazel, Trish Burr, yourself, and Jessica Grimm are insanely talented women who are experts. Not only are you getting a well-designed and well-planned kit (or book, or pattern), but you are getting the time they put into designing and creating it in the first place, along with their expertise. Good-quality kits from expert designers are not the same as sub-par clearance bin kits you find languishing on the shelves at big-box craft stores. We talk a lot about how much women’s work is worth, but we too often do not walk that talk.

    That doesn’t mean we should all shell out money we can’t afford, but I hope we at least understand that supporting each other as skilled artists and craftspeople doesn’t mean expecting designers to under-price themselves into oblivion.

    Apologies for the longer-than-intended response, but this subject falls under the general umbrella of valuing our work, which has been a theme I’ve run into quite a bit lately, so I’m on high alert, lol!

  20. When I was a young girl, my father taught me to put a price on my time. As I have gotten older, the price on my time has gotten higher as I have less time left to squander. Since my time is currently running somewhere above $300 an hour in value to me, I need to save a great deal of money to go searching out my own supplies. This can be offset, however, by the value of modifying the supplies in a given project so the finished look has my unique take on it. The answer to this question is not always consistent from one project to the next. The final answer comes when I determine whether my time is more valuable to me or the uniqueness of the finished project is.

  21. There is nothing better than a kit from a designer or if you can’t get one to reproduce the exact items a designer used. I am currently working on Sue Spargo Block of the Month. This is not a cheap kit. It comes once a month, but when I am done–I know I am going to have a quality project that I love. I also gave it to myself for my birthday present. It makes it easier that way.

  22. Generally I do not buy kits, because I find that they are often not very generous with the fabric to enable proper mounting, and as I have all of the DMC threads, I much prefer not having to deal with their threads. However, recently I took an online canvaswork course and thought I would just purchase the threads locally, so no need to mail a kit across the country. Well some of the threads I was not able to find locally and even Nordic Needle required a pre-order on that thread. I would have been financially ahead to just buy the complete kit.

  23. Like Ros,I have tried both kits and working my own designs from pictures etc. If like me you end up with a stash of stuff over time, it’s quite easy to find what you want – working with your own design as it’s yours, you can change it! I generally find I change stuff on kits anyway. That’s why I could never appreciate the discipline of cross stitch and needlepoint. Too much of a free spirit, I guess, or a rebel!

  24. Mary, that’s the best explanation of why designers’ kits are a good thing that I’ve ever read – but then, as a designer of embroidery kits, maybe I’m a bit biased. But so often I have had potential customers contact me ‘just for a bit of thread’, or to ask,’can I just buy the chart?’ – when they don’t seem to realise the work that goes into all the bits and pieces of a kit. I know that people build up stash over time (my stash is huge!!), but a well-designed kit really is a better bet in the long run. Use your stash for projects that you design yourself from scratch, or for designs sold specifically as charts only. For designs sold as kits, there’s usually a reason for it – the kit contains something special, that you might not be able to source yourself. And that element that you spoke of, Mary – TIME – is the most crucial thing. Save as much time as possible for the stitching!!

  25. I like the convenience of kits….one stop shopping is great. However, the small businesses are left out…..the stitching shops where we browse to see what’s new, chat with other stitchers, see and touch the merchandise before we buy. As a disclaimer, I do not own a shop, but have experienced the demise of beloved shops in my area. Now I can find DMC in certain chain stores, but it’s nothing like the personal touch added by a specialty shop, who can source just about anything to meet your needs, and lickety split, at that!

  26. I’ll agree with the other comments – the most critical factor for me is how happy I’ll be to work the project exactly to the designer’s specifications – which is also related to how much of that technique I’ve done before and what I have in stash. (Secondary factor – how specialized are the materials. Even if I’m going to make some mods, if there are things in the kit that I know will be a headache to source myself, it can be worth buying for the convenience.)

  27. Mary, thank you for writing a straight forward, clear and sympathetic article about artisan kits. Speaking as an artist and crafter, I often see professional artists/crafters/designers complaining about others saying that their kits are too expensive.You have put forward all of the issues facing small businesses who only make a few kits in such a lovely way. I may have to send a few people to read this article to see how it’s done.

  28. Hi Mary,

    What a great article! You have expressed my feelings and clarified my thinking about kits. I’m in the process of considering offering kits to my online students and every single thing you mention about designer kits is absolutely true. The time is what is the most “expensive” when producing a kit for a specific project – finding, ordering, sorting, assembling, packaging, posting…all takes time.

    You are right when you say that we want the people who reproduce our design to have the best possible experience and to produce the most beautiful piece of embroidery possible. It’s all about keeping the art of embroidery alive and thriving for as many people as possible.

    Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and insight!

  29. Even though I don’t do embroidery, I’ve followed your site for a long time because I love your work! Also I’m always inspired by your patience when working ( or sometimes, re-working) a piece.
    I loved you article about purchaing kits. I sew lovely baby items that I sell in a local shop and often price them low because most people don’t understand the quality of materials or workmanship involved. Maybe it’s time to rethink that?! Thanks for the pep talk!

    1. A simple retail test: Attach the word “exclusive” to some of your items, price them higher, and track the sales of those items vs. the lower-priced ones. If the higher-priced items start selling out at an equal or greater rate, gradually raise your prices over a six-month time period. It’s a genteel approach to what would otherwise be sticker-shock to customers who’ve gotten used to paying what is probably far too little for your work.

      You should be paid what your time and talent are worth, and you should never under-value either.

    2. Lynn, I’ve custom-knit sweaters for people, and I’ve sold some of my framed cross-stitch patterns as well. I worked out a formula that suits me since these events are rare. It goes cost of materials + time it takes to complete the project (often a guesstimate by me) x 2 for my labour. I 3 times the labour if the knitting requires a lot of yarn colour changes or the pattern is made difficult with twists and braids, etc., or if, with embroidery, if there is a lot of beading or other embellishment. This usually nets me a sum I’m happy with, and luckily, no one has ever squawked “What!?!?”

  30. Designers kits also include extra instructions, and like Hazel Blomkamp’s kits, really necessary to reproduce the stitching. Tanja Berlin’s instructions are so complete that it’s like being in a class of hers. Several designers will try to answer questions you might have about a kit.
    Commercially produced kits…you get what you pay for. The wool is below par, the cotton floss is horrible. And I don’t like Aida cloth. For me, I am paying the total price just for the pattern and minimal, often incomplete, instructions. Once, I requested to buy additional floss for a commercial kit. The company sent a list of DMC equivalents…which was way off.
    Australian kits, because of the postage, are very expensive. There is an LNS, in Denver, A Stitching Shop, http://www.StitchingShop.com, that has in the past recreated thread kits to go with patterns, saving much of the postage on the threads and fabric.

    1. I had tried to source my own supplies for Carolyn Pearce’s Home Sweet Home and could not find everything. The Stitching Shop said she was doing the kits, but was waiting for some of the threads. Told her I wanted a kit and she said it would be around $300. I still wanted it and she said she would contact me. I never did hear from her even though she said she had my order in her computer. Was not happy with her follow through and she lost a $300 sale.

  31. Great article, Mary, and I fully concur with your thoughts on purchasing kits, especially “designer kits”.

    I am stitching a project I purchased as a kit, Sample 1 from Shakespeare’s Flowers by Jane Nicholas. The kit does come with partial skeins of the threads and small quantities of beads but more than enough to do the piece twice over.

    One thing I would add to the list of benefits of purchasing the kit, certainly true for this one, is that some of the prep is done for you. All of the threads are cut to lengths and put onto thread cards and clearly labelled. No sorting through trying to find the right skein. Also the wires for the detached petals have been coloured saving me from purchasing paints/dyes in the correct shade and another prep job.

    I’m a big fan of kits, especially “designer kits” and having put together kits for a class I teach, I know how much work goes into them. I think they represent good value.

  32. There have been so many projects I wanted to start but became discouraged because of the difficulty and expense of sourcing all the materials. By all means, spend the money on the kit and support the designer.

  33. I am a relatively new stitcher. Therefore, I very much appreciate the specific direction by the designer and the work that they put into creating a kit. There is no question that the kits deliver a lot of value. In addition, I like the opportunity to bring more revenue to the designer (although it may not be much). I am grateful for the amount of work and talent that the designers deliver and am aware of how little they are compensated.

  34. I’m also a free spirit…kits make me feel like I’m manufacturing instead of creating as an artist. I usually make my own designs, but sometimes will use existing patterns. I like being able to pick my own colors, threads and fabrics.

    1. I agree with you Kate, I prefer to design and make my own pieces. I mix different threads of different thicknesses and fibre content willy nilly, put a bead or two in here and there just for emphasis and so on.

      However when I wanted to try a new technique, eg, thread painting, I bought a complete kit from Trish Burr. If you want to reproduce exactly what a designer has done, buy the kit – it will save you tons of angst apart from anything else. But if you are a free spirit like Kate, me and others, then by all means do you own thing. BTW I live in a small town in rural Australia and buy all my supplies online so I need to be patient while I am assembling what I think I might need for a project and also to accept that I am going to have lots of additional material for the stash at the end.

      Finally, thank you Mary for a wonderful exposition of this subject.

  35. Hmmm … an interesting topic for discussion! I have mixed views depending on the technique. For designs that use a fairly simple range of materials that are widely obtainable (one type of main brand threads and fabric) I like to buy the chart and materials separately and then having extra for my stash. On the other hand, if a design uses some specialist, hard to find materials it’s so much easier to get the kit and not have to fuss with all the extra postage and tracking stuff down. Anything that reduces the number of hoops to jump through before I start is a huge bonus, and I agree that it’s nice to support the designer. Also if I’m trying a new technique it’s nice to buy a kit with all the bits and bobs ready to go. I’ve seen some designers offer a specialist threads/findings pack alongside the charted design, which allows you can buy the remaining regular embroidery threads locally. I think that’s a useful halfway house option.

  36. This is just one point among the many you raised. Recently I picked up a UFO started many years ago, a stumpwork piece with 4 leaves. I had cut the wire for the leaves but lost one piece. Needless to say, I couldn’t finish the piece with only 3 leaves and didn’t want to order special stumpwork wire for one 4″ piece of wire. I checked out floral wire most of which was to heavy. Then someone suggested looking at jewelry-making supplies at my local arts & crafts store. It was perfect. It came in many gauges and colors. It would not be suitable for every use, but it was for mine. It was inexpensive to boot. If you HAVE to put together your own kit that wire is one of the harder elements to find.

  37. What a dilemma. I’ll buy commercial kits when I’m in NEED of a project and it appeals to me. Like when I’m stuck somewhere and need something to do and there just happens to be a big box nearby. BTW..I rarely finish them. I’ll buy designer kits because I live in an area where needlework supplies just don’t exist, so that leaves me the daunting task of ordering on line and like the example in Mary’s post, by the time I get that all done I’m wishing I’d of just ordered the kit and gotten it over with. In my travels, I’ve come across wonderful, but rare needle work shops that will “kit” a design for you. It’s worth it because they know where everything is and saves time.

  38. Hi Mary,

    When looking at Hazel’s sight I find the price confusing since it is not listed in dollars. Also, her design kits from her two books do not include the stitching directions with the kit. You need to buy her books for that. So you not only buy the kits but need to have the book for stitching the piece. I opted just to buy her books. Her work is inspirational. But in the end I must decide just how much on supplies I will spend.
    Barbara L.

    1. You can download free currency conversion apps to take the pain out of foreign currency-priced purchases.

  39. I love kits, it gives me chance to try different ground fabrics and threads as well as learn new techniques. I also like it when you can buy a thread and bead pack for a design, it means if you want to stitch it again, you can buy another thread pack. It saves time and money buying kits and thread packs, especially when you have no needlework shops close by and everything has to come by post.

  40. I bought kits when I started with goldwork, primarily because I didn’t know what supplies were what, or where to get them. I wouldn’t bother with a goldwork kit now, because I know what I like and where to get the supplies, and I prefer to make my own designs. I would buy a crewel work kit, though, for similar reasons of being a beginner in that style and wanting the guidance.

    My bugbear with kits is less whether they are value for money – that’s entirely in the eye of the beholder. My problem is when kits don’t provide you with all the materials you need to actually finish the project, and don’t suggest suppliers either. The firescreen is a great example — beautiful kit, totally want to do it, but I want to actually make a firescreen. The Crewel Work Company doesn’t list a supplier for firescreen frames, so where do I get the correctly sized screen? Same with the pillows – finishing materials are not included. Maybe not everyone wants these materials, but not providing the option to buy them with the rest of the kit is a big missed opportunity.

    This actually stops me buying the kits at all, because I’m a beginner in that style of embroidery and so I don’t know what finishing materials I’d need, nor where to get them, and I’m not going to take a punt on a £140 kit that isn’t actually complete.

    1. I second that – kits that don’t contain everything to complete the article are No Fun At All. I bought a kit from overseas for a biscornu once, an expensive designer one, and was mortified that it didn’t contain – wait for it – the fabric. Yes, you read that right – the FABRIC!

      I couldn’t believe it. When I asked them about it, thinking they must have accidentally forgotten to include it in the package, they said the fabric is easy to get and anyway, not everyone wants the fabric in the colour they have, so they don’t supply it. It’s not available everywhere, or anywhere that I’ve been able to find, in New Zealand.

      So the kit has been sitting there, unmade, for years. It was a waste of money and I’ll never buy from that designer again. It was the first kit I’d ever bought and after that I’ve been very picky to make sure before I purchase that I know exactly what is and isn’t included in the kit.

      My thinking on kits is that if I want “that thing, just as it is” I’ll get the kit but only if all the materials I need to complete it are in the kit. If I want to change anything about it I’ll design my own instead.

  41. I think there is a decided difference between “designer” kits and those put together by companies: Dimensions,Bucilla,etc. I have discovered much to my dismay that the threads included are not color-fast like my pwn purchased DMC threads. I have had reds and purples run when washing the project. But when I prewash my DMC threads (just in case) I have yet found one that bled into the water. The individual designer kits do deserve some extra “pay” for their talent and time.

  42. Good morning Mary
    Very well said.
    One other thing. If you purchased the kit from
    the designer you will be able to contact the designer if you need assistance. If she/he is aware that you purchased the kit rather than sourced it out, she/he would probably be more than happy to help you.
    One of my favourite designers, Tanja Berlin, offers great assistance when you purchase her kits. And, her kits and instructions are first class.
    Manitoba, Canada

    1. Total agree. I handsome several kits from Tanya Berlin and love everything about them.

  43. Thank you very much Mary for such a great article on kits. As I am one of those people who makes designer kits (great name!), I know all too well the different perspectives on the price I put on my kits. In my case, the kit price also includes the possibility to contact me to help you on your way when you get stuck or to have me send you extra material as you ran out. Because although I do provide you with a generous amount, sh.. sometimes happens :). And thanks Liz n. for calling me an insanely talented woman. I am sure some of my family and friends would very much agree with the insane part :). Because after all, we are not in the embroidery business to become rich. We do this because we have this insane passion!

    1. You ARE crazy-talented! Every time I open the blog links in your newsletter, it’s a treat for the eyes!

      You’re also very generous with your time, so you get double points for just generally being a good person. 😀

  44. Hi Mary and embroidery enthusiast,

    I’m a hand embroidery designer who has been selling my original designs in kits for the last 2 years

    Remembering the joy the Erica Wilson kits gave me as a kid in the 70, I wanted the same experience for my customers!

    These kits have been a labor of love and has taken a team of loyal individuals to produce. Graphic designers, fabric producers, cutters, printers etc, the list is extensive! Thank goodness I have these folks so I can have the time to design and embroider

    After retiring from 30 + years of hand embroidery commission work it is a joy to be sharing my designs. If I could turn on one little girl as Erica Wilson did so very long ago, then it’s worth the time and effort put into these kits.

    Thanks so much for letting me tell my story and happy stitching!

    Xo Jennifer Alba

  45. I love many of the kits and as you say they are often very good value compared to sourcing supplies. Unfortunately, although the internet gives us global access to wonderful designers I have found when it comes to ordering from overseas the shipping and import taxes can more than double the cost and make things prohibitive. It seems such a shame that this can potentially limit the market for these fabulous designers.

  46. I rarely buy commercially prepared kits as I do not enjoy separating a knotted bundle of threads into colors, especially when the colors are close enough that you have to guess which corresponds to which symbol on the chart. Plus, I always feel with that sort of kit that I have to be so careful in my use of thread, not knowing if a generous amount of thread was included. It does not make for a relaxed stitching experience for me. I’m also leery of the quality of the threads. Kits with beads are aggravating, too. I don’t want to spend precious stitching time separating beads into color groups.

    I often buy designer kits, especially if threads I’ve never used before are part of the design. It’s a good way to experience new threads without investing blindly in a large quantity of threads you’re not sure you’ll enjoy using. Usually designers include whole skeins, as you mentioned. Those that do not provide whole skeins usually go to the trouble to separate the threads onto thread cards with labels. I really appreciate that.

    All of that said, I thoroughly enjoy THE HUNT for supplies. It’s like a game to me. I absolutely love hunting down and using threads from Canada, England or Australia, for example. Silly, I know, but it makes me feel like a world traveler.

    1. Mary A.,
      I’m with you: I’ve often described assembling my supplies as a scavenger hunt. Along the way, I’ve learned things, and found many good sources. My latest big search was for some lighter weight linen threads, by Bocken. Ordered from Switzerland to US – East Coast, and was here in about 10 days time (could have paid extra for “express” shipping). There were some US sources – mostly lace making suppliers, but I didn’t find one with all the different weights, so it was easier to order this way.

      That’s why in my local groups I’m known as the “crazy thread lady”.

  47. Mary – you are absolutely spot on in your evaluation of designer kits vs. sourcing your own! The only thing I would add, is that sometimes stitchers have color preferences different than designers. I never do exactly the same thing as a pattern. I always do my interpretation… I love to go to shows and buy beautiful threads, so sometimes I have already what I need, and sometimes I buy kits and switch out some color(s). It seems to depends on the stitcher’s desired outcome.

  48. i love kits. my biggest frustration is that being in the u.s. there is so much out there for counted cross stitch which i cannot do – it gives me a headache. i just wish that there was a u.s. source that stocked all the wonderful kits out there from other countries such as the crewel work company, hazel blomkamp, to name just a few there are many others. would a u.s. source help with the cost? I also wish there was someone in the u.s. making wonderful quality kits as i think there is a market for it. I would love to make the tree of life kit from tristan brooks priced at $130 but is currently out of stock.

    1. I am intrigued: trying to find the tristan brooks tree of life, but can’t see it – can you send me the URL please?


    2. tristan brooks.com what i call the tree of life is her design CR-1 Jacobean Pastoral – a beautiful kit i have been wanting to work but has been out of stock

  49. Mary, I couldn’t agree with you more. I especially like your point about supporting the art of surface embroidery and the passionate designers who keep it alive and vibrant. I started out using cheap kits and learned quickly that you get what you pay for. I then moved on to designer kits and, eventually, to self-directed projects. I’ve learned a lot from both and gotten great pleasure doing both. Now I trade off between carefully selected kits that challenge me to try something new and self-directed projects to experiment with what I’ve learned and make it my own. I’m delighted to support the designers; they’re like mentors.

  50. I just love kits, have many quilt kits. Where I live there is no local store so I buy online. Kits give me an opportunity to see fabrics that I would never otherwise see.

    I am now dabbling in embroidery and although Late Havest cost me $138.00 due to our lousy exchange rate I feel it was worth it. To source the materials in this kt would cost me more than the kit as I would have to pay shipping for each purchase.

    One other advantage is that iif I was to buy via mail order in my country I would be paying 3 times the USA price. Another is that I do not know what the item is. I had no idea about wire, its size or where to get it. I now know about stumpwork and wire.

  51. You really did cover it all. I made kits in the 70’s and it is not easy. I agree, support the designer, enjoy making the kit, love it forever. If you change it that will overshadow what you really wanted for years to come. I wish people would add the real time that it takes to make a project. After many years I realized I had a really fun hobby, but not a business to make a living. If you really like a kit, buy it, you will not be sorry when it is half way done and you run out of something and can not get more.

  52. I used to look for ways to save money so I could buy more linen, fibers and designs. Over time I realized I was spending a lot of my time and energy tracking down difficult to find items. Not having an LNS this was usually a frustrating process since I can’t see, touch and feel the supplies.

    Today I will gladly pay the extra money for a designer kit so the entire experience is pleasant from the moment I open my new stitchy mail to the day I put in the last stitch. I also agree that its important to support the designers who are creating these great works and sharing them with us. They can only do that if we support them.

    Do I sometimes swap out fibers or make changes? Absolutely, but usually they are minor. I’ve fallen in love with design enough that I want to invest money and my time to complete it – usually its because I love the overall design as it is.

    I source my own materials for small or straightforward projects, but for a designer project, I definitely find value in supporting the designer and purchasing the kit from them.

  53. Thanks for the great topic. I actually felt like I was cheating buying a kit. However, I love kits and not having to decide which colors to use. Color and design are not my strengths.

    My challenge with moderately priced kits is that often they are very juvenile and not that interesting. Then I discovered etsy. I spent hours researching their selection and ended up buying 2 kits. I have not started them yet but the designs spoke to me.

    I do like to work off simple designs that require very little prep time . Mary,s patterns are great and come with good suggestions for thread color and stitch choice. This hobby is so individual. By the way I completed a hedge hog kit designed for an 8 year old. Gave it away as a baby gift. I loved every minute of stitching. Have a great day. Mauri

  54. I’m a huge fan of designer kits! For embroidery, quilting, and garment sewing. I want to spend my time stitching/sewing. Not shopping.

  55. As a designer believe that my kits are a well worth the price that I charge my students. They have access to threads and supplies that I have already found and taken the time to collect. I try to introduce them to some things that are not easily available so that they can have fun working with new and quality supplies.
    It is always a trade off if the fabric and thread are easily found so my retail patterns use different threads than the teaching kits.

  56. I have done a lot of kits and non-kit projects. Obviously it is easier to get a kit then stitch it, and I have only once found a designer who didn’t include enough thread to complete the kit (although she supposedly had 50% extra). I have also replaced things I don’t like in a kit.

    But I like changing colors and things. When you have a good needlework shop you can spend wonderful hours looking for just what you want.

    When you don’t have a good shop conveniently located, like where I now live, this is a problem.

    So both sides of the question have advantages.

  57. I am not a fan of kits. Perhaps the problem is that far too many times I have not had enough floss to complete the project. And I am a thread miser!

    I far prefer assembling the items for the project myself. I have been stitching long enough to know my preferences in thread, fabric, and accoutrements.

    That said, if the kit is from a particular artist, and not one of the mass produced ones, I cam be tempted.

  58. I like kits and use them extensively. I want to stitch not spend hours finding this and that emailing vendors, hoping I get the right thing ordered, shipping costs…

    Yet, kits put me into a creative rut and I find I rely on them as a crutch. I need to start using my own creativeness to design my own patterns and figuring out stitches and colors.

  59. In general, It’s a wise move to purchase the kit: 1) everything’s included and 2) so, you save a little cash… you pay much more in angst.
    However, and there’s always a however. I recently bought the Ring Pillow pattern and instructions from Inspirations. The materials were all readily available, except that I couldn’t find any 38 count linen for love or money. I improvised and bought 36 count instead and am I glad I did! I can barely see the 36 count with an illuminated magnifier, so would have stood no chance with 38 count. The upshot? Use your loaf (common sense), as we say in the UK and all will be well.

  60. Hi Mary, I am not an avid embroiderer but I have purchased many kits for quilting projects and I presume the experience would be similar. Over the years I have found that kits are the way to go. They may seem pricey in the beginning but as was pointed out, by the time you spend time, money, shipping costs, etc., the kits is worth every penny just to have everything you need.
    Carol Mc.

  61. As usual, Mary, you have really hit the nail on the head. I do mainly canvaswork and sometimes I will buy the whole kit(designer) and sometimes I just buy the chart. When a project involves many, many different threads, beads, etc some of which I am not familiar with or I know will be hard to find, then I buy the kit because I know everything will be there. If I have a choice and the kit doesn’t come in colors that I like or uses a few threads that I know are easily available, or maybe I have the threads in my stash and just want to do my own thing with threads and color, then I go with just the chart.
    Over the years I have spent a great amount of time tracking down an elusive thread and you can never get everything from 1 shop so there are multiple trips or orders. In the long run, it is actually less expensive to buy the kit. I am talking only about the “designer kits”.
    Another factor I think needs to be considered is the integrity of the design. Designers have an idea of the final look and when stitchers substitute threads, colors, etc then the finished design is no longer what it was originally.

  62. I agree with your theory concerning buying a kit. If you love the piece, you want to recreate it and so you buy the design, kit and all. As a former designer and now an instructor of needlepoint canvas enhancement, I am constantly dealing with students who love a painted canvas, but don’t like some of the painted colors and so will not purchase the canvas. I repeatedly tell them that they can adapt the colors to their liking, but they are “afraid”! I want to pound my head against a wall! And so kits represent the same situation. People like the design, but may not be happy with some of the color choices. They don’t understand the role of color in a design and when it is OK to do some substitution and when it is not! As a result they try to re-design the kit and it rarely works out well. A designer works hard to create a palette that is pleasing, and chooses threads that are appropriate to the design and the learning curve. Why second guess a professional????

  63. I agree with all the points you made in your discussion of this topic. If one is designing an original embroidery, then one would source all the materials to have control over all the design elements.

  64. For myself, I don’t care for kits, as I like to make up my own designs in whatever craft I’m doing.

    But I wanted to give someone a gift of a Harry Potter-themed cross-stitch kit, and apparently they don’t exist. So I bought a PDF pattern from etsy, and I’m having to gather all the supplies and package them up, which is a pain in the you-know-what.

    Bottom line, I think if I wanted to work a design that comes in a kit, I’d spring for the kit!

  65. I particularly am interested in substituting silk thread for cotton floss. Therefore I would be the kit if I am using all the floss, but if I have to purchase a lot of different silk floss it doesn’t make sense for me to buy the kit.

  66. the only thing I would like to add is the right number of supplies in a kit. I have had kits put together by shop owners/ or suppliers that lack enough thread or beads, incase you make a mistake, or drop a bead and don’t have enough to finish . I would gladly pay extra for one or 2 pieces of thread or beads extra. If they aren’t used they will be put in my stash.

  67. Wow you really touched some nerves as there seems to be a ton of responses to this topic Mary! It can get tiring to be confronted by those who want whatever they see even though our budgets may not allow us to indulge and we all know the budget wins most of the time! My solution to that is usually to say, “Sure, okay, my fee for that is $50 per hour payable by Paypal. Send me your email address and I’ll send over an invoice.” That sometimes solves the issue unless they respond with “Okay.” In that case, you could add, “I require a minimum of 3 hours to research sources.”!

  68. This is an excellent article on the challenges of putting kits together. As you said, we do not get paid for the time and energy it takes to assemble the kits. The profit margin is minimal at best – most of us have kits for convenience of the client.

  69. What a great summary, thanks Mary! I am a big advocate for buying kits (as my stash proves!), however I do only buy designer kits. I don’t like the lesser quality you receive in the commercial kits, and I’m a big supporter of these designers who do such a wonderful job not only designing the project, but also spend their valuable time putting together the kits. I’m also a little lazy, and would much rather have the running around done for me so I can just dive in, and know that I have the right supplies and good quality of one’s too, so I will get the best result I can with my ability. Having said that, I do appreciate the option of not buying he whole kit, as I’ve now been embroidering for a few years, and have a stash of threads, and when I only need to buy a few to top up the requirements I’d rather use what I already have.

  70. I think you made some excellent points. Especially the point about asking someone to provide the list of sources for another’s kit. They are asking you to do their homework. I have found my experience is similar your email number 2 in a detailed project. I often find it impossible to find the exact supplies used in a project I have seen in a magazine, book, or on-line, much less locally. So when someone offers a kit, and you want the exact product that has been illustrated, it is best to buy the kit. Often the details that made it so special and appealing are difficult if not impossible to find, and to ask someone else to find them, and spend time to compile a list for them is asking too much. A kit (that someone has spent the time to research and gather those nearly impossible to find specialty items) has already done your homework for you. Mary, I am so thrilled that you have introduced me to so many places on-line where I can find those specialty items that I never even knew existed.

  71. I saw a completed cross stitch project in a needlework shop and just fell in love with it. I was on vacation at the time and probably never would have gotten back to that particular area. I purchased the design as a kit – had the shop put everything together, and ship to my home address. The ‘kit’ wound up costing me approximately $300.00 which I would never have spent locally. However, I loved the design and had everything at the ready when I did get to work on it. The finished design turned out as beautifully at home as it looked in the shop. It is not something I would do often, but I have never regretted buying such an expensive ‘souvenir’. Hopefully, the completed piece will be enjoyed by many generations to come

  72. Not a kit person myself. For the projects in the Crewel Intensions book, I would prefer getting my own supplies,as I don’t care for the colors used in the projects for the most part. The colors are too grayed down for my taste. In the Late Harvest project, for example, I would prefer the “grapes” to be grape colors, rather than the topaz color.